Chris Cole has written ‘Drone Wars Briefing’. It is hot off the press and is essential reading for anyone concerned with the impact of drones on human rights or the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Palestine and Somalia.
Many people around the world are extremely troubled by the growing use of unmanned systems to launch attacks at great distances. Traditionally, one of the key restraints on warfare has been the risk to one’s own forces and, as the MoD themselves admit in their publication on UAV’s, if this restraint is taken away, unmanned systems may make war more likely. The way that unmanned drones have enabled a huge increase in targeted killing is also causing deep disquiet amongst legal experts and scholars. Of particular concern is the way that the CIA is using such unmanned systems to undertake extrajudicial killings in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia – countries with which the US is not at war.
However, perhaps the greatest concern relates to what is seen as one of the most important capabilities or characteristics of drones – their ability to loiter over an area for hours or even days. Evidence is beginning to emerge that it is the persistent presence of UAVs sitting over remote villages and towns simply looking for ‘targets of opportunity’ that may be leading to civilian casualties.